THE MULE – Clint will Outlive Us All

Following the travesty that was THE 15:17 TO PARIS last year master filmmaking octogenarian, Clint Eastwood, returns to the screen with THE MULE. I don’t know how he does it. I am mid 40s and tired all the time. If I even make my 80s it will be all prescription medications and a lifetime supply of Netflix. Clint, on the other hand, is churning out (nearly) a movie a year and not only directing them but starring in them. Bravo to the man who will outlive us all.

THE MULE is out Thur Jan 24th in Australia from Roadshow/ Warner Bros. It is rated M and runs for 116mins.

The Mule Clint Eastwood image
Clint Eastwood

BY JASON KING

THE MULE SYNOPSIS:

When the internet takes over the success of selling flowers and bulbs famous horticulturist Earl Stone loses everything. A 90-year-old Korean War veteran who has spent most of his life letting his family down is bordering on destitution when he is offered a job that will pay him a lot of money just to drive. But said driving is driving as a drug mule for the Mexican cartels. And so begins Earl’s life of crime, which is more like a long haul taxi driver, in a very dangerous industry.

THE MULE is loosely based on the true story of World War II vet Leo Sharp.

The Mule Clint Eastwood image
Clint Eastwood

Is THE MULE a good movie?

Enjoyable in many scenes THE MULE lacked nuance and the script demanded a mammoth overhaul.

I love Clint, he has been a master of screen since the mid 50s. He has directed 40 films since PLAY MISTY FOR ME in 1971 and has 72 acting roles credited to him. He is a Hollywood machine who will die the second he stops working. But it shows in THE MULE, it is the first time Clint truly does look on the line of 90yrs old.

His directing of THE MULE appears quite clunky with certain scenes and cuts looking like they are off kilter. They could have been a cut a few frames earlier and some of his directing choices in this movie were just plain wrong. Tonally the movie was all over the shop not being sure which genre to fit itself into. True story? Family redemption? Drug Movie? Comedy? Chase Movie?

Watching Clint at times was hysterical, the 90yr old not scared at all of the drug cartels, happy to sing some awesome solo car karaoke and not too shy to have threesomes (or was it foursomes) with women that could be his granddaughters. It was so close to being greatness. The meeting in the diner with Clint and Bradley should have been so much more powerful, and the ending was so sweet it let the film down.

THE MULE was too neatly tied up, It lacked that tension and edginess of films like HEAT or even FALLING DOWN or THELMA AND LOUISE that this movie would have embraced. Imagine a THELMA AND LOUISE styled ending from the old guy who says “fuck it to redemption.” But – it’s a true story so damn that haha.

Considering Clint is nearly 90 I will forgive a lot but the racism was just out of nowhere, poorly timed, and completely unnecessary:

About 1/4 of the way through THE MULE, after Clint is seen being nice and lovely to his hispanic workers early in the movie, all of a sudden calls a black couple and their kid, who he is helping change a tyre, negros. It was this completely left-of-centre stomach punch that had not one iota of purpose being in the movie. Then he starts dropping random racist comments to the cartel members. I get an old school republican Korean war vet might be stuck in his old ways and be a racist bigot but this needed to be established in the opening scenes, not 1/4 way through the movie when an opinion of the character is already formed. Totally cringeworthy.

The drug cartel not being able to find him also bugged me and the one scene when an ambulance pulls over a vehicle made no sense. It was not a cop car, why did the guy automatically just pull over, why not slow to the side for it to pass? This bugged me. And finally, the Drug Cartel boss being shot – why? I get it changed things up with a meaner crew but seemed completely odd. It should have been established there was an issue with the boss in a subplot before this happened.

The Mule Dianne Wiest and Clint Eastwood image
Dianne Wiest and Clint Eastwood

SOLID CASTING:

The casting was decent and people who love Clint will appreciate his later-in-life, slower paced movie. I can’t see younger audiences appreciating THE MULE because the pacing will do their heads in.

Clint rocks; his dry sense of humour, while slightly mistimed, will get a chuckle out of the audience. Bradley Cooper could have been better utilised. But the necessity to spend so much time with Earl’s family to drive home “the old man making his redemption” angle saw less screen time with Bradley. I loved seeing Andy Garcia in the movie, he had some fun and delivered the single best line.

Dianne Wiest has been a long time favourite of mine since EDWARD SCISSORHANDS but she simply plays the old angry wife/ex-wife. Laurence Fishburne’s character is two dimensional and Michael Peña will always be a favourite.

Taissa Farmiga never fails to impress on-screen and finally Clint’s own daughter (one of the many apparently), Alison Eastwood, plays a good, jilted daughter let down through life by her father.

The Mule Alison and Clint Eastwood image
Alison and Clint Eastwood

IN CONCLUSION:

THE MULE is a decent movie but it is far from being a great movie. I would see this one if you’re a massive Clint fan or want a slow paced rainy day movie which misses the destination but has an enjoyable journey getting there.

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.